Philosophy of Language [Second edition] 9780773567061

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Philosophy of Language [Second edition]
 9780773567061

Table of contents :
Cover
Title
Copyright
Contents
Preface to the first edition
Preface to the second edition
Acknowledgements, first edition
Acknowledgements, second edition
General notes
1. Frege: Semantic value and reference
1.1 Frege's logical language
1.2 Syntax
1.3 Semantics and truth
1.4 Sentences and proper names
1.5 Function and object
1.6 Predicates, connectives, and quantifiers
1.7 A semantic theory for a simple language
Further reading
2. Frege and Russell: Sense and definite descriptions
2.1 The introduction of sense
2.2 The nature of sense
2.3 The objectivity of sense: Frege's critique of Locke
2.4 Four problems with Frege's notion of sense
2.5 Kripke on naming and necessity
2.6 A theory of sense?
2.7 Force and tone
2.8 Russell on names and descriptions
2.9 Scope distinctions
2.10 Russell's attack on sense
2.11 Russell on communication
2.12 Strawson and Donnellan on referring and definite descriptions
2.13 Kripke's causal-historical theory of reference
2.14 Appendix: Frege's theses on sense and semantic value
3. Further reading
3 Sense and verificationism: Logical positivism
3.1 From the Tractatus to the verification principle
3.2 The formulation of the verification principle
3.3 Foster on the nature of the verification principle
3.4 The a priori
3.5 Carnap on internal and external questions
3.6 Logical positivism and ethical language
3.7 Moderate holism
Further reading
4. Scepticism about sense (I): Quine on analyticity and translation
4.1 Quine's attack on the analytic/synthetic distinction: Introduction
4.2 The argument of "Two Dogmas" (Part I)
4.3 Criticism of "Two Dogmas" (Part I)
4.4 The argument of "Two Dogmas" (Part II)
4.5 Criticism of "Two Dogmas" (Part II)
4.6 Quine on the indeterminacy of translation: Introduction
4.7 The argument from below
4.8 Evans and Hookway on the argument from below
4.9 The argument from above
4.10 Conclusion
Further reading
5. Scepticism about sense (II): Kripke's Wittgenstein and the sceptical paradox
5.1 The sceptical paradox
5.2 The sceptical solution and the argument against solitary language
5.3 Boghossian's argument against the sceptical solution
5.4 Wright's objections to the sceptical solution
5.5 Zalabardo's objection to the sceptical solution
5.6 The normativity of meaning?
5.7 "Factualist" interpretations of Kripke's Wittgenstein
Further reading
6. Saving sense: Responses to the sceptical paradox
6.1 Linguistic meaning and mental content
6.2 Sophisticated dispositionalism
6.3 Lewis-style reductionism and Ultra-Sophisticated Dispositionalism
6.4 Fodor's "asymmetric dependency" account of meaning
6.5 McGinn on normativity and the ability conception of understanding
6.6 Wright's judgement-dependent conception of meaning
6.7 Wittgenstein's dissolution of the sceptical paradox?
Further reading
7. Sense, intention, and speech acts: Grice's programme
7.1 Homeric struggles: Two approaches to sense
7.2 Grice on speaker's-meaning and sentence-meaning
7.3 Searle's modifications: Illocutionary and perlocutionary intentions
7.4 Objections to Gricean analyses
7.5 Response to Blackburn
7.6 Strawson on referring revisited
Further reading
8. Sense and truth: Tarski and Davidson
8.1 Davidson and Frege
8.2 Davidson's adequacy conditions for theories of meaning
8.3 Intensional and extensional theories of meaning
8.4 Extensional adequacy and Tarski's convention (T)
8.5 Tarskian truth theories
8.6 Truth and translation: Two problems for Davidson
8.7 Radical interpretation and the principle of charity
8.8 Holism and T-theorems
8.9 Conclusion: Theories of meaning and natural languages
Further reading
9. Sense, world, and metaphysics
9.1 Realism
9.2 Non-cognitivism and the Frege-Geach problem
9.3 Realism and verification-transcendent truth
9.4 Acquisition, manifestation, and rule-following: The arguments against verification-transcendent truth
9.5 Twin-earth, meaning, mind, and world
9.6 Grades of objectivity: Wright on anti-realism
9.7 Two threats of quietism
Further reading
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

Philosophy of Language

Philosophy of Language provides a comprehensive, meticulous survey of twentieth-century and contemporary philosophical theories of meaning. Interweaving the historical development of the subject with a thematic overview of the different approaches to meaning, the book provides students with the tools necessary to understand contemporary analytic philosophy. Beginning with a systematic look at Frege's foundational theories on sense and reference, Alexander Miller goes on to offer an exceptionally clear exposition of the development of subsequent arguments in the philosophy of language. Communicating a sense of active philosophical debate, the author confronts the views of the early theorists, taking in Frege, Russell and logical positivism and going on to discuss the scepticism of Quine, Kripke and Wittgenstein. The work of philosophers' such as Davidson, Dummett, Searle, Fodor, McGinn, Wright, Grice and Tarski is also examined in depth. This fully revised second edition contains several new sections on important topics including: causal theories of reference the normativity of meaning "factualist" interpretations of Kripke's Wittgenstein Putnam's "twin-earth" arguments for externalism This engaging and accessible introduction to the philosophy of language is an unrivalled guide to one of the liveliest and most challenging areas of philosophy and the new edition captures the vibrant energy of current debate. Alexander Miller is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, UK.

Fundamentals of Philosophy

Series editor: John Shand This series presents an up-to-date set of engrossing, accurate and lively introductions to all the core areas of philosophy. Each volume is written by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher of the area in question. Care has been taken to produce works that while even-handed are not mere bland expositions, and as such are original pieces of philosophy in their own right. The reader should not only be well informed by the series, but also experience the intellectual excitement of being engaged in philosophical debate itself. The volumes serve as an essential basis for the undergraduate courses to which they relate, as well as being accessible and absorbing for the general reader. Together they comprise an indispensable library of living philosophy.

Published: Greg Restall Logic Richard Francks Modern Philosophy Dudley Knowles Political Philosophy Piers Benn Ethics Alexander Bird Philosophy of Science Stephen Burwood, Paul Gilbert and Kathleen Lennon Philosophy of Mind Colin Lyas Aesthetics Alexander Miller Philosophy of Language Second Edition

Philosophy of Language Second Edition

Alexander Miller

McGill-Queen's University Press Montreul & Kingston Ithoca

O 2007 Alexander Miller

ISBN: 978-0-7735-3338-7 Legal deposit fourth quarter 2007 Biblioth6que nationale du Qukbec Published simultaneously in the European Union by Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group. First edition published 1998 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Miller, Alexander 1965Philosophy of language / Alexander Miller.-2nd ed. (Fundamentals of philosophy) Includes bibiographical references and index. ISBN: 978-0-7735-3338-7 1.Language and languages--Philosophy. 11. Series.

Typeset in Century Schoolbook and Futura by Refinecatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk Printed in Canada

I. Title.

Preface to the first edition Preface to the second edition

xiv

Acknowledgements, first edition Acknowledgements, second edition General notes

Frege: Semantic value and reference 1.1 Frege's logical language

1.2 Syntax 1.3 Semantics and truth 1.4 Sentences and proper names 1.5 Function and object 1.6 Predicates, connectives, and quantifiers

1.7 A semantic theory for a simple language Further reading 2 Frege and Russell: Sense and definite descriptions

2.1 The introduction of sense

xvi xvii

CONTENTS

2.2 The nature of sense 2.3 The objectivity of sense: Frege's critique of Locke 2.4 Four problems with Frege's notion of sense 2.5 Kripke on naming and necessity 2.6 A theory of sense? 2.7 Force and tone 2.8 Russell on names and descriptions 2.9

Scope distinctions

2.10 Russell's attack on sense

2.11 Russell on communication 2.12 Strawson and Donnellan on referring and definite descriptions 2.13 Kripke's causal-historical theory of reference 2.14 Appendix: Frege's theses on sense and semantic value Further reading 3 Sense and verificationism: Logical positivism 3.1 From the Tractatus to the verification principle

3.2 The formulation of the verification principle 3.3 Foster on the nature of the verification principle 3.4 The a priori

3.5 Carnap on internal and external questions 3.6 Logical positivism and ethical language

3.7 Moderate holism

Further reading

CONTENTS

4 Scepticism about sense (I): Quine on analyticity and translation 4.1

Quine's attack on the analytic/synthetic distinction: Introduction

4.2

The argument of "Two Dogmas" (part I)

4.3

Criticism of "Two Dogmas" (part I)

4.4

The argument of "Two Dogmas" (part 11)

4.5

Criticism of "Two Dogmas" (part 11)

4.6

Quine on the indeterminacy of translation: Introduction

4.7

The argument from below

4.8

Evans and Hookway on the argument from below

4.9

The argument from above

4.10 Conclusion

Further reading

5 Scepticism about sense (11): Kripke's Wittgenstein and the sceptical paradox 5.1

The sceptical paradox

5.2

The sceptical solution and the argument against solitary language

5.3

Boghossian's argument against the sceptical solution

5.4

Wright's objections to the sceptical solution

5.5 Zalabardo's objection to the sceptical solution 5.6

The normativity of meaning?

5.7 "Factualist" interpretations of Kripke's Wittgenstein Further reading

CONTENTS

6 Saving sense: Responses to the sceptical paradox

203

6.1 Linguistic meaning and mental content

204

6.2 Sophisticated dispositionalism

207

6.3 Lewis-style reductionism and Ultra-Sophisticated Dispositionalism

212

6.4 Fodor's "asymmetric dependency" account of meaning

216

6.5 McGinn on normativity and the ability conception of understanding 6.6 Wright's judgement-dependent conception of meaning

226

6.7 Wittgenstein's dissolution of the sceptical paradox?

234

Further reading

243

7 Sense, intention, and speech acts: Grice's

programme 7.1 Homeric struggles: Two approaches to sense

246

7.2 Grice on speaker's-meaning and sentence-meaning

249

7.3 Searle's modifications: Illocutionary and perlocutionary intentions

254

7.4 Objections to Gricean analyses

259

7.5 Response to Blackburn

265

7.6 Strawson on referring revisited

268

Further reading

270

8 Sense and truth: Tarski and Davidson

8.1 Davidson and Frege 8.2 Davidson's adequacy conditions for theories of meaning

273

8.3 Intensional and extensional theories of meaning

275

CONTENTS

8.4

Extensional adequacy and Tarski's convention (T)

8.5 Tarskian truth theories

8.6 Truth and translation: Two problems for Davidson 8.7 Radical interpretation and the principle of charity 8.8

Holism and T-theorems

8.9

Conclusion: Theories of meaning and natural languages

Further reading 9 Sense, world, and metaphysics

9.1 Realism 9.2 Non-cognitivism and the Frege-Geach problem 9.3 Realism and verification-transcendent truth 9.4

Acquisition, manifestation, and rule-following: The arguments against verification-transcendent truth

9.5 Twin-earth, meaning, mind, and world

9.6 Grades of objectivity: Wright on anti-realism 9.7 Two threats of quietism Further reading Notes Bibliography

Index

Preface to the first edition To the student, philosophy of language can seem a bewilderingly diverse and complex subject. This is not an illusion, since philosophy of language deals with some of the most profound and difficult topics in any area of philosophy. But beneath the diversity and complexity, there is some unity. In this book I have concentrated on exhibiting this unity, in the hope that it might make some of the more profound and difficult questions a little more approachable to the student. I have adopted an approach which is broadly thematic, but also (up to a point) historical. If there are two main themes in twentieth-century philosophy of language, -. they could perhaps be termed systematicity and scepticism. Ordinarily, we would say that speakers of a language understand the expressions of that language, or know their meanings. Philosophers have been motivated by a desire to say something systematic about these notions of linguistic understanding, meaning, and knowledge. One way in which this can be done is to give some informal theory of meaning: this is a theory which attempts to analyse and elucidate our ordinary, pre-theoretic notion of meaning. In Chapters 1 and 2 we begin with Frege's informal theory of meaning, and his analysis of the intuitive notion of meaning in terms of the notions of sense, semantic value, reference, force, and tone. Another way in which philosophers attempt to say something systematic about the notion of meaning is via the construction of formal theories of meaning. A formal theory of meaning is, roughly, a theory which generates, for each sentence of the language under consideration, a theorem which in some way or other states the

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

meaning of that sentence. Philosophers have attempted to get clear on the notion of meaning by asking about the nature of such a formal theory. Again, the starting point here is Frege, and in Chapters 1 and 2 we look briefly at a simple example of a Fregean formal theory of meaning. The main notion discussed in the book is that of sense. After an extensive discussion of Frege's notion of sense in Chapter 2, we move on in Chapter 3 to look at the logical positivists' views on sense: what constraints are there on the possession of sense? We'll look at the logical positivists' answer to this question, and show how it impacts on issues in metaphysics. In Chapters 4 and 5 we look at the second main theme in twentiethcentury philosophy of language, that of scepticism about sense. Are there facts about meaning, and if there are, how do we know them? We'll look at arguments from Quine and Kripke's Wittgenstein which attempt to argue that there are no facts about meaning, that the notion of meaning, as Kripke puts it, "vanishes into thin air". These attacks on the notion of meaning have been enormously influential, and much of contemporary philosophy of language can be viewed as an attempt to rehabilitate the notion of meaning in the face of these attacks. We look at some of these attempts to rehabilitate the notion of meaning in Chapter 6, and, inter alia, show that there are important and close connections between issues in the philosophy of language and issues in the philosophy of mind. The question of the relationship between mind and language is discussed further in Chapter 7, when we give a brief, critical account of Grice's attempt to analyse the notion of linguistic meaning in terms of the notion of intention. In Chapter 8, we return to the systematicity theme, and look at Donald Davidson's views on the construction of formal theories of meaning for natural languages. We finish in Chapter 9, by returning to a theme which loomed large in Chapter 3, the relevance of questions about meaning to issues in metaphysics. I try to provide a rough map of the current debate between realism and anti-realism, displaying the relevance to this debate of the issues discussed in the previous chapters. Obviously, in a book of this length, many important topics in the philosophy of language have had to be ignored, and the discussion of chosen topics has sometimes had to be drawn to a premature close. I hope, though, that although the map provided in this book

xii

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

is incomplete, it is detailed enough to allow the student undertaking further study to work out where these other topics should be located, and to continue the discussion from where I have left off. Guides to further reading are provided at the end of each chapter. Likewise, it is my hope that teachers of the philosophy of language will be able to use this book in their courses, filling out the map as they go along, according to their own interests in the philosophy of language. The book has been written to be accessible to second- or thirdyear undergraduate students, or to anyone with a basic knowledge of the language of elementary logic, such as that taught in firstyear university courses. Some knowledge of elementary general philosophy, such as that taught in first-year courses on metaphysics and epistemology, would be useful, though, I hope, not essential. Some parts of the book are more demanding than others. For readers entirely new to the philosophy of language, 93.3, 855.3-5.7, $96.3-6.7, and 58.5 could be left out on a first reading, and returned to later. Postgraduates and more advanced undergraduates should note, though, that in many ways $56.3-6.7 constitute the heart of the book. It is my hope that these sections, and indeed the rest of the book, may also be of use to professional philosophers with an interest in the philosophy of language. ALEXANDER MILLER Birmingham March 1997

xiii .

Preface to the second edition In this second edition I have added several new sections, cleaned up the original text considerably, and updated the guides to further reading at the end of each chapter. The presentation of Kripke's Wittgenstein, in particular, has been modified to take into account the complexities brought to light by the "factualist" interpretation pioneered by George Wilson and David Davies (although in the end I argue against the factualist interpretation in 55.7). Since the preparation of the first edition, a number of excellent resources for the philosophy of language have been published: A Companion to Philosophy of Language (Oxford: Blackwell 1997), edited by Bob Hale and Crispin Wright, The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Language (Oxford: Blackwell 2006), edited by Michael Devitt and Richard Hanley, and A Handbook of Philosophy of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006), edited by Ernest LePore and Barry C. Smith. I mention a few of the constituent articles in these volumes in the further reading and in the footnotes, but I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend them generally: they are the essential next port-of-call following the present text for all serious students and researchers in the philosophical study of language. In addition, Alessandra Tanesini's Philosophy of Language A-Z (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2007) is an excellent resource. ALEXANDER MILLER Birmingham January 2007

Acknowledgements, first edition In writing this book, I have had the benefit of many comments on the preliminary draft from a number of colleagues and friends: these have resulted in many improvements and have saved me from many errors. For this, I would like to thank Michael Clark, Nick Dent, John Divers, Jim Edwards, Brian Garrett, Chris Hookway, Iain Law, Greg McCulloch, Duncan McFarland, Elizabeth Mortimore, Stephen Mumford, Philip Pettit, Jim Stuart, Mark Walker, Alan Weir and Stefan Wilson. Thanks also to the students in my Honours philosophy of language classes of 1994-1997 in Nottingham and Birmingham, who acted as guinea pigs for much of the material. I would also like to thank my series editor, John Shand, for useful comments on the typescript and for encouragement and advice throughout. Thanks also to Mina Gera-Price at UCL for editorial assistance with the preparation of the final version. Most of all, I am grateful to Fisun Giiner for her help, encouragement and tolerance of my bad temper during completion of the book.

Acknowledaements, In addition to thanking again the colleagues and friends mentioned above, I'd like to thank Tama Coutts, Ed Dain, Koje Tanaka, Alessandra Tanesini, Ieuan Williams, and the students in my philosophy of language classes in Sydney between 2003 and 2005. I'm also grateful to Tony Bruce at Routledge for his enthusiasm for a second edition, and to the five anonymous referees who gave it the go-ahead. Back at the University of Birmingham, I'm grateful to the School of Social Sciences for giving me a term's study leave during which the second edition was prepared, and to my colleagues in the Philosophy Department for their support. I'm especially grateful to Janet Elwell in the Philosophy Office for her invaluable assistance. Thanks, too, to Eileen Power for her excellent copy-editing. For indispensable help of a philosophical and extra-philosophical nature at key moments since I wrote the first edition, I thank John Divers, Fisun Giiner, Bob Kirk, Martin Kusch, Brian Leiter, Philip Pettit, John Shand, Mr A.R. Walsh, Alan Weir, Crispin Wright, Mark Walker, and - most of all - Jean Cockram and Rosa Miller.

General notes Use and mention

When referring to linguistic expressions, I use quotation marks. This also signifies that the quoted expression is,being mentioned rather than used. Thus (i)

"Neil Armstrong" has thirteen letters

is an example of a case in which the expression is mentioned, and in which the first expression in the sentence stands for a linguistic expression, while (ii) Neil Armstrong was the first man to step foot on the moon is an example of a case in which the expression is used, and in which the first expression in the sentence stands for a particular man.

Types and tokens

In the course of the book, I sometimes make use of what is known as the type-token distinction. Very roughly, this marks a distinction between sorts (i-e. types) of things, and instances (i.e. tokens) of sorts of things. Thus in

xvii

GENERAL NOTES

(iii) (iv) (v) (vi)

blue red Michael blue

we have four word tokens, but three word types. (iii) and (vi) are tokens of the same type. Likewise, if Smith believes that Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and Jones believes that Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, we can say that Smith and Jones both token a belief of the same type.

xviii

Chapter I

Frege Semantic value and reference1

Philosophy of language is motivated in large part by a desire to say something systematic about our intuitive notion of meaning, and in the Preface (to the first edition) we distinguished two main ways in which such a systematic account can be given. The most influential figure in the history of the project of systematising the notion of meaning (in both of these ways) is Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), a German philosopher, mathematician, and logician, who spent his entire career as a professor of mathematics at the University of Jena. In addition to inventing the symbolic language of modern logic: Frege introduced some distinctions and ideas which are absolutely crucial for an understanding of the philosophy of language, and the main task of this chapter and the next is to introduce these distinctions and ideas and to show how they can be used in a systematic account of meaning.

SEMANTIC VALUE AND REFERENCE

1.I Frege's logical language

Frege's work in the philosophy of language builds on what is usually regarded as his greatest achievement, the invention of the language of modern symbolic logic. This is the logical language that is now standardly taught in university introductory courses on the subject. As noted in the Preface (to the first edition), a basic knowledge of this logical language will be presupposed throughout this book, but we'll very quickly run over some of this familiar ground in this section. The reader will recall that logic is the study of argument. A valid argument is one in which the premises, if true, guarantee the truth of the conclusion: i.e. in which it is impossible for all of the premises to be true and yet for the conclusion to be false. An invalid argument is one in which the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion: i.e. in which there are at least some possible circumstances in which all of the premises are true and the conclusion is false.3One of the tasks of logic is to provide us with rigorous methods of determining whether a given argument is valid or invalid. In order to apply the logical methods, we have first to translate the arguments, as they appear in natural language, into a formal logical notation. Consider the following (intuitively valid) argument:

(1 )

(2) (3)

If Joneshas taken the medicine then he will get better; Jones has taken the medicine; therefore, He will get better.

This can be translated into Frege's logical notation by letting the capital letters "P" and "Q" abbreviate the whole sentences or propositions out of which the argument is composed, as follows:

P: Jones has taken the medicine. Q: Jones will get better. As will be familiar, the conditional "If. . . then . . ." gets symbolised by the arrow " . . . +.. .".The argument is thus translated into logical symbolism as:

SEMANTIC VALUE AND REFERENCE

P -+ Q, P; therefore, Q. The conditional "+"is known as a sentential connective, since it allows us to form a complex sentence (P + Q) by connecting two simpler sentences (P, Q). Other sentential connectives are: "and", symbolised by "&"; "or", symbolised by "v"; "it is not the case that", symbolised by "-";"if and only if', symbolised by "w".The capital letters "P", "Q", etc. are known as sentential constants, since they are abbreviations for whole sentences. For instance, in the example above, "P" is an abbreviation for the sentence expressing the proposition that Jones has taken the medicine, and so on. Given this vocabulary, we can translate many natural language arguments into logical notation. Consider:

(4) If Rangers won and Celtic lost, then Fergus is unhappy; (5) Fergus is not unhappy; therefore

(6)

Either Rangers didn't win or Celtic didn't lose.

We assign sentential constants to the component sentences as follows:

P: Rangers won. Q: Celtic lost. R: . Fergus is pnhappy. ' '

I

%

The argument then translates as: 1

)

>

,

(P & Q) A R, -R;therefore -P v -Q.



"

I

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